Editor’s note: With the 2012 election just around the corner, we want our readers to stay informed regarding our nation’s future, as well as its past. This is why our Social Studies team will craft various weekly blogs around the history of elections and the importance of participation. These posts are co-authored by Nora O’Leary-Roseberry and George Rislov.
Having discussed in a previous blog post the strange origins of the vice presidency, I’d like to write in this one why the office matters. There have been several times in our history that it mattered a great deal.
5 Vice Presidents have been elected President: Adams, Jefferson, Van Buren, Nixon, and (GHW) Bush. The achievements of these men as president were uneven. Adams, Van Buren, and Bush failed in their bids to be reelected. Nixon resigned as a result of the Watergate scandal. Jefferson is considered one of the nation’s great presidents and successfully negotiated the Louisiana Purchase.
image of Martin Van Buren courtesy of www.americaslibrary.gov
4 Vice Presidents became President as a result of assassination: (A) Johnson, Arthur, (T) Roosevelt, (L) Johnson. Andrew Johnson, taking over for Lincoln at the end of the Civil War, was not the man for the job. Disliked by Congress, he was subjected to an impeachment trial. He was not nominated for a full term. Chester Arthur was likewise rejected by his party for a nomination for a full term, although his pursuit of the nomination was half-hearted at best. Theodore Roosevelt became an enormously popular president, was elected to a full term, and presided over the overseas expansion of the United States in the early 20th century. And Lyndon Johnson, locked out of executive decision-making by the Kennedy administration, stepped in masterfully and rallied a stricken nation around his predecessor’s uncompleted agenda.
image of Andrew Johnson courtesy www.americaslibrary.gov
4 Vice Presidents became President through the natural deaths of the presidents: Tyler, Fillmore, Coolidge, and Truman. Three of these (Tyler, Fillmore, Coolidge) are considered to have had relatively undistinguished presidencies. Truman, taking over for Franklin Roosevelt at the end of World War II, seemed unprepared on paper for the awesome responsibility of the job, but proved up to the task. He served out Roosevelt’s term and was elected to his own term in 1948. He is perhaps best known for having to make the controversial decision to use recently developed nuclear weapons against the Japanese to end the war. He was also the last president not to have earned a college degree (so far).
image of Millard Fillmore courtesy www.archives.gov
1 Vice President became President due to resignation: Ford. Ford was appointed to the office of Vice President following the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew as a result of tax evasion charges. Shortly after taking office following the resignation of Nixon as a result of the Watergate scandal, Ford issued a presidential pardon for Nixon. The pardon tainted Ford’s presidency and he failed in his bid for reelection.
image of Gerald Ford courtesy www.loc.gov
Does the Vice Presidency adequately prepare one to be President? What do you think history tells us about this question? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, please leave comments under the title of this post.
George Rislov is senior marketing manager at Compass Learning, and was formerly the chief architect for the social studies department. George taught middle school, high school, community college, and university courses in the Dallas area before he came to Austin to work for the Texas Education Agency, where he served as managing director of the division of curriculum. George has served as president of the Texas Council for the Social Studies, and in 2000 was selected to be one of four Southwest Region trainers for the new AP World History course by the College Board. He has been at Compass Learning since July of 2007. He is owned by two totally spoiled Boston Terriers, Zac and Django.